Akram Khan Comapny
Followed by post-show Q & A with the artists.
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
Thursday 19th March
Igor is Igor Stravinsky, composer of the infamous Rite Of Spring, which was first presented in Paris, 1913. The music and the ballet, choreographed by the equally-infamous Vaslav Nijinsky, caused a riot in the audience that required the police to be called to the theatre. The score and the choreography were simultaneously celebrated as genius, and ridiculed as the downfall of classical performing arts. The score was mixed metre, atonal, shocking. The ballet was pigeon-toed, geometrical and laden with undertones of violence an the theme of human sacrifice.
More than a century later, Stravinsky’s powerful work remains current and intruiging for choreographers and dancers alike. Any company taking on Rite of Spring, or their interpretation or response to it, embraces all of its turbulent and passionate history.
The London-based Akram Khan company, although just fourteen years old, is immensely sophisticated and deservedly successful. With Khan’s background in contemporary dance and classical Indian Kathak dance, the audience can expect something original and thought-provoking. iTMOi premiered two years ago, on the 100th anniversary of the original Rite of Spring. In choreographing a work inspired by Rite of Spring, Khan chose not to use the Stravinsky score. He emulated its form, however, using three contrasting composers (Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost), constant and sudden changes of sound level and style, contrasting lyrical music with atonal rhythms.
When embarking on his choreographic process, Khan explained:
“… I put everything out of my mind, and then attempted o enter Igor’s own thought process and follow its comple and disruptive path. Igor, in The Rite of Spring, breaks away from established social modes, revisits his youth and forcefully deconstructs it, untangling the memories and breathing life into new thoughts and old traditions. In echo, I set out on the same path and discovered my own turmoil, my own desire to destroy old patterna and create new ones. Each memory is a little death. I had to wipe the slate of my own past clean in order to discover what I am capable of. Unexplored images came to mind, and I found myself faced with my own limits…”
The result is a stunning and original combination of choreography, composition and performance technology. The movement vocabularies are modern and performed with brilliant control, attack and occasional subtlety. Dancer TJ Lowe, as the ‘priest ‘ figure opens the ballet with a remarkable solo. His presence throughout the work remains strong. Sisters Kristina and Sadé Alleyne stand out as the powerhouses of the show. Remarkably, it is their first professional contract together. They perform with detail and exact awareness of one-another’s timing and placement onstage. Catherine Schaub Abkarian’s poise and elegance provide dramatic contrast throughout the piece. The eleven dancers have individual costumes and characters in the work. Each has moments of strength and excellence. Hip hop b-boy dancer Louis Becker does stand out at times for lacking the control and clarity of the other dancers. In this way his lack of classical training is evident, and although he performs the large and showy moves with vigour, it is the moments of transition that let him down.
Costume Designer Kimie Nakano and Lighting Designer Fabiana Piccioli have created a visually varied, yet synthesised, world onstage. iTMOi is fresh, imaginative and emotionally moving. The underlying themes of Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s work are evident, but without any sense of having been re-hashed. This ballet stands on its own as a choreography of meaning and power. The audience reacts with enthusiastic applause, and a standing ovation from around half of us. Definitely worth seeing, possibly more than once.
For more on the Akram Kahn company, the website is well worth a look.
Gold Stars: 4.5/5
Imagery by Gate Photography, courtesy of Auckland Arts Festival.